Students preparing for their graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral

English and American Literature - BA (Hons)

UCAS code Q300

2019

English and American Literature at Kent covers all periods of literature from Chaucer to the Contemporary. It teaches you to make connections across cultures, genres and historical moments and, in the process, ask searching contemporary questions.

2019

Overview

Kent’s School of English is an energetic and enterprising department. Several of our staff are published authors and poets and there are also numerous internationally recognised scholars. We try to ensure that you are taught by different lecturers with varying approaches, so that, throughout your degree, you encounter fresh ideas and new authors.

Seminars form a crucial part of your learning experience and you are able to express your own ideas and opinions. We keep our class sizes small to ensure you receive as much individual attention as possible.

Our degree programme

This programme opens students to the possibilities of transatlantic exchange (with literature from the United States and Canada) and, through a range of specialist modules, the study of global literatures in English including the literature of Africa, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, India and the Caribbean.

In your first year, you are introduced to the major forms of literature: poetry, narrative prose and drama. You study how writers of different backgrounds and time periods have confronted the subject of identity and the kinds of identities literature depicts. You also gain an understanding of critical theory and the way we read and think about literature in the 21st century.

You study broad periods and genres of English and American literature and explore a variety of critical approaches in your second and final years. You take one module in pre-1800 literature and then choose from a broad range of additional modules covering modern American literature, modernism, Shakespeare and Victorian literature.

In your final year, you move into specialised areas of study. Our specialist modules explore specific authors, genres or topics and have previously included contemporary British and Irish poetry, Thomas Hardy, the graphic novel, Native American Literature, the Brontës and postcolonial writing. You can also opt to complete a supervised dissertation.

English and American Literature student Domonique talks about her course at Kent.

Placement year

It is possible to spend a year on placement gaining valuable workplace experience and increasing your professional contacts. You don’t have to make a decision before you enrol at Kent, but certain conditions apply.

Year abroad

You can study abroad at one of our partner universities between the second and final year. Previous destinations include the US, Canada, Europe and Hong Kong. For details, see English and American Literature with an Approved Year Abroad.

Extra activities

There are a variety of literary activities at Kent. Students in the School of English publish a magazine of their creative writing, poetry and prose. There are also a number of student-run societies with a literary theme. In previous years these have included the:

  • Creative Writing Society
  • T24 Drama Society
  • Poetry Society
  • Literature Society.

The student newspaper, InQuire, is run by the student union and gives you the opportunity to develop your writing skills and to gain valuable work experience in journalism.

The School of English runs research seminars, workshops and social events, as well as a successful creative writing series of readings, where well-known writers and publishers share their experiences and skills. Previous guests include:

  • Iain Sinclair
  • Patience Agbabi
  • Terry Eagleton.

All our students receive free membership to the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in central London, giving you access to the ICA’s facilities and a small number of internships.

Independent rankings

English at Kent scored 92.4 out of 100 in The Complete University Guide 2019 and was ranked 18th in The Guardian University Guide 2019.

Of English students who graduated from Kent in 2017 and completed a national survey, over 95% were in work or further study within six months (DLHE).

Teaching Excellence Framework

Based on the evidence available, the TEF Panel judged that the University of Kent delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Please see the University of Kent's Statement of Findings for more information.

TEF Gold logo

Course structure

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.   On most programmes, you study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also be able to take ‘wild’ modules from other programmes so you can customise your programme and explore other subjects that interest you.

Stage 1

Modules may include Credits

Literary Forms aims to introduce students to the major forms of literature: poetry, prose and drama, with a core emphasis on innovation. Students will examine the formal structures and generic features of these major forms and, through studying specific examples, observe how these forms change over time and in response to changes in authorship, literary production, and audience/readership. Embedded in this module will also be the development of writing and research skills that will equip students to manage successfully the transition from A-level to university study in the field of English and American Literature.

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Critical theory and theoretical approaches to the interpretation of literary texts have become increasingly fundamental to English Studies, while also offering a number of rich and complex ways of reading and understanding society and culture more generally. In this course, we will introduce you to some key theoretical readings in five broad areas: feminism, psychoanalysis, Marxism, Post-Colonialism and Race, and Sexualities. Through these readings, we will invite you to make connections between theoretical approaches and to think about how they might inform your reading practices on this and other courses. The aim of this work is to help you to understand the significance and usefulness of theory on its own terms, as well as giving you a coherent grounding in the ways theoretical concepts help us to approach and understand literary and other texts. Through this, you will develop a sophisticated understanding of the dynamic relationship between theory and culture, literature and politics.

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Mapping Identities will introduce students to a sample of the myriad ways writers of different backgrounds and time periods have confronted identity. Whether complicit in the construction of mainstream understandings of social categories (such as race, class, gender, or sexuality), or engaged in their deconstruction, literary authors have long been instrumental in establishing and/or contesting our understanding of the subject and that subject's relationship to place. Mapping identity through place, this course will also invite students to think about that relationship between identity and the environments in which identities are forged or articulated.

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You have the opportunity to select wild modules in this stage

Stage 2

Modules may include Credits

This curriculum offers a survey of medieval and early modern literature from 1400 to 1700. Looking at a wide range of forms including poetry, prose and drama, students will consider the relationship between medieval and early modern life experience and the literary works it produced. We will consider how important debates surrounding political, social, gender and religious identity inflect and are reflected in the literature of the period, including works by writers such as Hoccleve, Donne, Lanyer and their contemporaries. Students will explore the boundaries of the literary canon, encountering pamphlets, petitions, sermons and conduct books, for example and consider the ways in which literary and non-literary texts both mirror and influence culture and society.

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The drama of early modern England broke new literary and dramatic ground. This module will focus on key plays across the period. It will explore the development of dramatic writing, the status of playing companies within the London theatres, drama's links to court entertainment and its relationship to the provinces. Dramatic and literary form will be a central preoccupation alongside issues of characterisation, culture, politics, and gender. Shakespeare's work will be put into context in relation to the plays of his contemporary dramatists as well as the various cultural, historical and material circumstances that influenced the composition, performance and publication of drama in early modern England.

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This module will introduce students to a range of writing from the late-medieval period. It focuses on a number of central genres in English literature that emerged between the late-fourteenth and early-sixteenth-centuries (romance, tragedy and fabliaux, miracle plays and devotional prose), and will explore some key topics and themes in medieval literature. In previous years, we have explored, for example: authority and the idea of the 'author', politics and social change, gender, sexuality, piety, personal identity, chivalry, free will, legend, historicism, reading technologies and practices, iconography, and medievalism. The themes and theories covered by the course will vary from year to year in response to the lecture programme, and to the emphases made by individual teachers.

Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales will offer an accessible introduction to many of these core genres and themes, and initiate students in issues that are pertinent to less familiar writers and texts from the period, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Malory's Le Morte Darthur, and The Book of Margery Kempe. During the course of the module you will also learn about the historical and cultural contexts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, how such contexts influenced the literature of the period, and how modern medievalisms (the versions of ‘the medieval’ presented in, for instance, film, TV , art and historical novels) have shaped twenty-first-century ideas about medieval life and literature.

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Before 1660 there was no English novel, and by the end of the eighteenth century there was Jane Austen. This module asks how such a literary revolution was possible. It investigates the rise of professional authorship in an increasingly open marketplace for books. With commercial expansion came experiment and novelty. Genres unheard of in the Renaissance emerged for the first time: they include the periodical essay, autobiography, the oriental tale, amatory fiction, slave narratives and, most remarkably, the modern novel. Ancient modes such as satire, pastoral and romance underwent surprising transformations. Many eighteenth-century men and women felt that they lived in an age of reason and emancipation – although others warned of enlightenment’s darker aspect. Seminar reading reflects the fact that an increasing number of women, members of the labouring classes, and African slaves wrote for publication; that readers themselves became more socially varied; and that Britain was growing to understand itself as an imperial nation within a shifting global context. It asks students to reflect, as eighteenth-century writers did, upon the literary, cultural and political implications of these developments

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This module features key modernist texts, for example the work of Ezra Pound, H.D., T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and Jean Rhys. It also makes substantial reference to key philosophical theories of modernity and textuality. The literary works are taken mostly from a restricted period 1910-1930. One focus in the module will be the notion of the artist as applied to the writer as an art-practitioner. Other texts which might form part of the curriculum may include a limited selection of works by Mina Loy, Wyndham Lewis,, Elizabeth Bowen, F.T. Marinetti, Samuel Beckett, Georg Lukács, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Walter Benjamin, Theodor W. Adorno, Jacques Derrida and Paul De Man. Other topics include modes of representation, language and experience, colonialism and modernism, textuality and identity, war and democracy, class and politics, cosmopolitanism and bohemianism, sex, morality and city life. This material requires both theoretical and historical orientation, as well as skill in distilling significance from complex literary artefacts with regard to the network of mediations which both bind such works to their apparent context and appear to dislocate them.

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This module is a study of twentieth-century American literature and culture organized conceptually around the idea of modernity. Students will explore the interconnections between modernity in the United States and the literary and philosophical ideas that shaped it (and were shaped by it) from the start of the century to its close. At the core of the module will be a necessary focus on two versions of American modernity, broadly represented by New York and Los Angeles respectively. Novels, works of art and critical texts will be read alongside one another to explore how these major regional hubs of aesthetic and cultural output developed competing conceptions of "modernity", “American culture” and the place of “the urban” in twentieth-century life, with important effects on contemporary perceptions of the USA. Moving beyond a sense of “modernism” as simply an aesthetic challenge to nineteenth-century modes of romanticism and realism, to consider the embeddedness of “modernist” literature within the particularities of its cultural and historical moment, students will be asked to develop a more nuanced approach to critical reading that pays close attention to the role of differing conceptions of modernity in the USA. The rise of mass culture, the L.A. film industry, the importance of Harlem to the history of race, the role of the intellectual, the urban challenges of the automobile, the birth of the modern American magazine, and questions of conservation and “creative destruction” in cities will all be considered through readings of key novels and critical texts from what Time Magazine editor Henry Luce famously called “The American Century”.

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This course will introduce students to the field of postcolonial literature, focusing on the period from the late nineteenth century to the present day. The module will be divided into three consecutive areas: empire and colonisation (three weeks); liberation movements and the processes of decolonisation (either three or four weeks); and migration and diaspora (either three or four weeks). Centred primarily on canonical British colonial texts, the first part of the course may also involve comparison with other less familiar texts and contexts, such as those of Zionist nationalism and settler colonialism, or more popular twentieth-century imperial fantasy and adventure genres. The texts in the second part of the module will be drawn primarily from Africa, the Carribean, the Middle East, and South Asia. The intention is to allow students to bring these disparate regions and texts into a productive dialogue with each other by reflecting on their shared history of decolonisation and their common engagement with colonial and liberation discourses. The course further aims to sketch a narrative of empire and decolonisation that is in part relevant to contemporary postcolonial Britain, to which the final section on migration and diaspora then returns. Some brief extracts from theoretical material on colonial discourse analysis, decolonisation, postcoloniality and migration will be considered alongside a single primary text each week. Students will be introduced to key ideas from the work of (among others) Edward Said, Frantz Fanon, Homi Bhabha, Stuart Hall and Gayatri Spivak. Together with a broad primary textual arc stretching from the British empire to postcolonial Britain, the course will thus give students a cohesive intellectual narrative with which to explore changing conceptions of culture, history, and postcolonial identity across the modern world.

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This module aims to introduce students to a wide range of Victorian literature. It will equip students with critical ideas that will help them become more skilful and confident readers of texts in and beyond this period. Students will be encouraged to read texts in a number of contexts: environmental (for example, considering the effects of urbanisation and the Industrial Revolution); imaginative (examining a variety of genres: for example fable, dream-vision, novel); political (class conflicts, changing gender roles, ideas of nation and empire); and psychological (representations of growing up, courtship, sibling and parent-child relationships, dreams and madness). Students will be made aware of such critical concepts as realism and allegory and will be encouraged to think about various developments of literary form in the period.

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When the Long Island-born poet Walt Whitman proclaimed in 1855 that the “United States” were history’s “greatest poem” he made an important connection between national political culture and literary expression. In some ways this was no exaggeration. As a new experiment in politics and culture, the United States had to be literally written into existence. Beginning with Thomas Jefferson’s dramatic Declaration of Independence in 1776, followed by the drafting of the Constitution after the Revolutionary War with Britain, the project of shaping the new United States in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was essentially a literary one.

In this module we will explore how American writers in this period tried in numerous, diverse ways to locate an original literary voice through which to express their newfound independence. At the same time, the module includes the work of writers who had legitimate grievances against the developing character of a new nation that still saw fit to cling to such “Old World” traditions as racialized slavery, class conflict and gender inequality.

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This module aims to introduce students to a wide range of contemporary literature written in English, where 'contemporary' is taken to refer to twenty-first century work. It will equip students with critical ideas and theoretical concepts that will help them to understand the literature of their own time. Students will consider examples of a range of genres: poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction and the essay. They will also be selectively introduced to key ideas in contemporary theory and philosophy. Over the course of the module, students will be encouraged to read texts in a number of contexts. They will consider writers' responses to, for instance, questions of migration, environmental change, and financial crisis. They will also consider a range of aesthetic developments and departures, for example: new conceptualism and the claim to unoriginality; archival poetics; the turn to creative non-fiction; the re-emergence of the political essay. The module will not focus on a given national context. Instead it will set contemporary writing against the background of identifiably international issues and concerns. In so doing it will draw attention to non-national publishing strategies and audiences. Overall, the module will aim to show how writers are responding to the present period, how their work illuminates and reflects current cultural concerns. The weekly topics will address both thematic and formal concerns.

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Year in industry

All our undergraduate degrees are also available with a Placement Year. For more information about this option please see Placement Year.

Year abroad

Going abroad as part of your degree is an amazing experience and a chance to develop personally, academically and professionally.  You experience a different culture, gain a new academic perspective, establish international contacts and enhance your employability.

All students within the Faculty of Humanities can apply to spend a Term or Year Abroad as part of their degree at one of our partner universities in North America, Asia or Europe. You are expected to adhere to any progression requirements in Stage 1 and Stage 2 to proceed to the Term or Year Abroad. 

The Term or Year abroad is assessed on a pass/fail basis and will not count towards your final degree classification. Places and destination are subject to availability, language and degree programme. To find out more, please see Go Abroad.

Stage 3

Modules may include Credits

This module gives an opportunity for intensive study of one of the major novelists of Victorian England. There are many different views and interpretations of Dickens circulating in our culture. He has been dismissed as a writer of cosy sentimentality, celebrated as a radical critic of his age, and admired for his prodigious output and creative innovation.

Studying a selection of his fiction, we will consider a wide variety of interpretations, in the light of the most current literary criticism of Dickens's works. We will analyse Dickens’s texts in terms of narrative method, genre, characterisation, imagery and book history and – in the process – we will examine how the novels respond to, or challenge, significant aspects of Victorian culture and society such as class, gender, family, nation, childhood, the city, empire, industrialisation, and modernity.

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The module raises students' awareness of contemporary issues in postcolonial writing, and the debates around them. This includes a selection of important postcolonial texts (which often happen to be major contemporary writing in English) and studies their narrative practice and their reading of contemporary culture. It focuses on issues such as the construction of historical narratives of nation, on identity and gender in the aftermath of globalisation and 'diaspora’, and on the problems associated with creating a discourse about these texts.

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The module is structured around poetry and fiction produced in New York since the Second World War. The emphasis is on New York's experimental and avant-garde traditions, and one organising principle is the inter-connectedness of the arts in New York. The module introduces students to some of the main areas of culture in the city, from the New York school of poetry through Abstract Expressionism, early Punk and on to post-modern fiction. Writers to be studied will include John Cage, Barbara Guest, William Burroughs, John Ashbery and Patti Smith.

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The Unknown asks you to think creatively and analytically and to learn by a combination of careful reading and experimental writing. You will be able to read a variety of important literary and critical texts published over the last 200 years – mostly in the last 50 years. You will be asked to use the skills of critical analysis and close reading developed elsewhere in your degree in new ways and to take a fresh look at the study of literature. The course draws on the ideas writers have about writing, as well as on psychoanalysis, literary theory, fiction, poetry, drama and film. It asks you to think deeply about how, and why, you read and write.

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This module explores the eighteenth century fascination with bodies and the truths (or lies) bodies were supposed to reveal. Our focus will be on the ways in which the body is read and constructed in eighteenth-century literature and how these readings and constructions reflect various concerns about class, race, gender and sexuality. Efforts to regulate the body (particularly the female, plebeian and racialised body) became the focus of many reformers and philanthropists in the period who sought to recuperate the productive (and reproductive) labour of idle or transgressive bodies to serve the nation's moral and financial economies. Other writers, however, emphasised the body's potential to work against social and cultural norms, focusing on events such as the masquerade, in which women dressed as men and aristocrat’s as chimney sweeps.

Through the course of this module we will examine a range of literary representations of the body which seek both the control the body and to celebrate its disruptive potential. We will read texts from a variety of genres including medical literature, misogynist satire, sentimental novels, popular fiction, travel writing and pornography. Primary texts will be read alongside recent critical work by Thomas Lacquer, Michel Foucault, Roy Porter, and Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, which illuminate the ideological stakes writers played for when writing about the body. Topics for discussion will include disability and deformity, race, the sentimental body, dress and the body, the body as text and the relationship between the body and the body politic. The primary focus of this option will be literature, but we will also examine visual representations of the body in caricature and satire as well as in the portraiture.

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While the so-called ‘Brontë myth’ remains potent in popular culture today, the lives-and-works model associated with it continues to encourage readers to seek partially concealed Brontë sisters in their fictions. Beginning and ending with the problematic of mythmaking – its origins in Gaskell’s 'Life of Charlotte Brontë' and its subsequent perpetuation in film and other rewritings - this module will restore attention to the rich literary contribution made by the sisters through an intensive focus on their novels and selected poetry in the context of Victorian debates about gender and the woman question. Situating the Brontë myth in relation to other forms of mythmaking in the period (for example, ideologies of class, gender and empire), it will consider a small selection of film adaptations and go on to examine the Brontës’s experiments with narrative voice and form, their variations upon the novel of education, the tensions between romance and realism in their writing and their engagement with religious and philosophical questions as well with the political, economic and social conditions of women in mid-Victorian culture. We will also consider a range of modern creative and critical engagements with the Brontës' literary works..

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Much Irish writing in the 20th and 21st centuries has been torn between tradition and innovation, between the need to define a national identity in opposition to Britain and the desire to transcend national boundaries and embrace a cosmopolitan modernity. With four nobel laureates in the 20th century (Yeats, Shaw, Beckett, Heaney), modern Irish literature has gained international recognition. In recent years, Irish Literature has undergone surprising changes in theme and content, moving from the insularity of parochialism to the emergence of the 'Global Irish novel". The charting of this development will provide an important framework for the discussion in this module of recurrent issues in Irish writing, such as history, cultural memory, violence and society, queer sexualities and gender relations, national and cultural identities, and the negotiation of what the historian Roy Foster has called the 'varieties of Irishness'. The module will consider a broad variety of Irish writing from 1975 to 2014: sampling significant developments in poetry, drama and prose.

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This course explores the intersections between nation, narration and globalisation in the twentieth and twenty-first century novel. It will focus this exploration through textual representations of 'the stranger', a figure theorised since the beginning of the twentieth century as symptomatic of modernity in European cultures, and more recently by postcolonial critics as the paradigm through which the effects of globalisation are ‘encountered’ in contemporary ‘multicultural’ national and transnational spaces. Students will be encouraged to analyse the historical and conceptual relations between novel and nation and the particular ways in which the body of ‘the stranger’ has been reified through them. At the same time, they will be invited to consider ‘the stranger’ as a disorientating embodiment of distance and proximity, and to evaluate how this dynamic constructs and deconstructs the form and boundaries of the novel as a genre, and the surrounding familial, national and racial paradigms of belonging. Through discussions of the theoretical work of writers such as Georg Simmel, Freud, Fanon, Edward Said, Judith Butler, Zygmunt Bauman, and Homi Bhabha, students will be asked especially to consider the mutual effects of estrangement across gendered, racial, and colonial divides. The broad aims of the course are to problematise ‘the stranger’ as a literary means of orientating the individual and the nation; to situate the twentieth and twenty-first century novel as a symptomatic site for ‘strange encounters’; and to understand the extent to which it poses ‘strangeness’ and ‘homeliness’ as inseparable, necessary and possible acts of narration.

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This module will bring together works of poetry and fiction by a number of black writers in the USA and Canada in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. With a particular emphasis on migration, music, and urban space, we will explore the intellectual, political, and aesthetic imperatives that drive these writers to address questions of race, ethnicity, gender, belonging, representation, poverty, privilege, and trauma.

Beginning in Harlem in the 1920s, the moment when “the Negro was in vogue”, students will examine the ways in which black Americans and Canadians have sought to make their impact on the literary landscape, by turns exposing and employing the power structures of the dominant culture. This comparative look at US and Canadian literatures, however, also challenges students to scrutinize the construction of literary and other categories, and to consider the commonality and distinctive difference between black experience north and south of the 49th parallel.

Lectures/workshops will emphasise discussion of key moments and movements in African American / African Canadian arts; the significance of linguistic distinctiveness; the cultural self-categorisation of black, African American, Africadian and Halfrican identities; and the rise of African American literary theory.

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This module focuses on the theory and practice of marriage and divorce in early modern England and its treatment in the literature of the period. Examining a wide range of texts (drama, poetry, prose works and domestic handbooks alongside documentary sources such as wills, legal records and letters), it will explore the ways in which representations of marriage and its breakdown both reflected and informed the roles of men and women in early modern society. The relationships between discourses about gender, politics and the historical evidence about men and women's married lives in the period will be explored both through reading in the extensive secondary literature of gender, women's history and masculinity as well as through the study of primary sources such as wills, court records, advice books, popular literature (ballads and pamphlets, for example), literary texts (poems, plays and tracts), diaries and personal memoirs and material objects such as wedding rings and scold’s bridles, for example. From Shakespeare and Fletcher's dramas of happy and unhappy marriage and Spenser's poetry of marital bliss, to argument surrounding men and women's roles in marriage in the poetry and pamphlets of Milton and his contemporaries, we will also go in search of the personal accounts of women and men's experiences of marriage and its breakdown and the material artefacts which are testament to them.

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This module examines the relationship between global capitalism and the novel since the 1980s. By arguing for the centrality of capital and class in the understanding of contemporary post-colonial literature, it reveals how a vibrant global realism has emerged that speaks to the new urban realities of massive rural migration to the city, exploding slum life, and more polarized class inequalities in the global South. It will explore how neoliberal globalization both makes possible and is critiqued by new realist narratives of abjection and resistance from across the global South, especially from India, Nigeria, South Africa, Martinique, Chile, and Egypt.

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This module explores the Gothic from its eighteenth-century origins to its present-day incarnations, examining in particular the conventions that have allowed this diverse and evolving genre to remain at once relevant and recognisable. The course focuses on the elements of terror, hauntings and transgressions and how these conventions are deployed and reworked by writers in key literary and historical moments in the genre's development, such as at the end of the end of the eighteenth century, the fin de siècle, post-war America and the millennium. It asks students to consider the Gothic within the social, political and cultural contexts that inform the novel’s various concerns about gender, sexuality, race, class and the law. There will be a strong emphasis on examining and exploring the theoretical discourses underpinning the shifts and developments in the major critical debates and trends. Students will be encouraged to relate textual and critical analysis to topics such as aesthetics, popular culture and literature, religion, social and political history as well as contemporary concerns such as marginalization, queer identity, the body and immigration. The module will demonstrate the ongoing significance of the Gothic as an experimental and evolving form that functions as a vehicle for political and social critiques and, as such, relates to concerns central to the study of undergraduate English and American literature.

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This module provides students with an opportunity to explore literature written by, for and about medieval women. It will consider women as writers, readers and the subjects of literature; as the consumers, compilers and scribes of books; and as the protagonists and antagonists in a variety of literary and artistic forms produced in England and Europe during late-medieval period. In the course of the module, we will explore how literature reflected, and helped to construct and constrain, women's lives, bodies, sexualities, identities and experiences, and the avenues through which they expressed their thoughts, desires and fears. By examining a range of material, including lyrics and romances, devotional manuals, saints lives, plays, letters, conduct books, sculptures, iconography and the everyday objects owned by women, we will encounter, for example: women as they were and how they were supposed to be; female friendship and same-sex desire; women’s diverse roles in society and in the home; how their bodies and relationships were used in polemic and political discourse; their influence on prominent male writers of the period; and the construction and erasure of late-medieval women’s voices in the historiography of later ages. The specific topics, materials and the date range covered by the module may alter from year to year to reflect teaching staff’s specialisms and interests.

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In this module, students will explore responses to colonialism, decolonization and mass immigration in late twentieth and early twenty-first-century British literature. Analysing poetry and prose, students will engage with narratives of national belonging and the mutability of national identity. They will examine responses to: the decline of British global influence; mass immigration from formerly colonised regions; the rise of neoliberalism; and the emergence of American geopolitical power (often articulated through concerns about the proliferation of mass culture). These responses will be related to literary forms that seek to address discourses of multiculturalism (and claims that multiculturalism has failed) and notions of a fractured post-imperial Britain, which are all the more pertinent in an age of increased calls for national and regional devolution.

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This module offers students the opportunity to read and analyse Shakespeare's earliest extant plays and poems and to consider the issue of 'early’ writing and style. This module will consider the theatrical, social, historical, and material contexts for the first plays Shakespeare wrote when he migrated from Stratford-upon-Avon to East London. In the course of the module, we will look specifically at Shakespeare’s practices of co-authorship with other dramatists in his early career, including Christopher Marlowe, George Peele, and Thomas Nashe. We will also consider such issues as performance spaces, company involvement, touring, patronage, and poetic ambition. Students will have the opportunity to read across genre and form, including canonical plays as The Taming of the Shrew and Richard III, and less often studied works such as Edward III and the plague narrative poems.

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This module will explore arguably the most popular of secular literary forms from late medieval and early modern Europe. The course will explore a range of chivalric romances alongside a variety of other literary, textual and material productions that testify to a cultural fascination with the ideals of knighthood and with courtly values more generally. The module will pay particular attention to the rise of romance literature in the late medieval period, with narratives that were repeatedly translated into English for socially diverse audiences. The module will explore particular tropes within romance literature and courtly lyric poetry, particularly in respect of the portrayal of women. It has long been recognised that romance literature was often read by mixed gender audiences and the module will explore how the genre functioned to guide female behaviour against patriarchal and social norms.

The module will also study how supposedly courtly literatures consistently appealed to 'middling' socially aspirant consumers and not only to society’s elite who were so often the protagonists portrayed in such texts. Actual readers, manuscript case studies and England’s first generations of printers will be examined to explore the contexts for the middling classes’ fascination with chivalric literature.

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Thomas Hardy is one of the most important writers of the last two hundred years. Born into a family that was somewhere below working class, he went on to become one of the most articulate explorers of human emotion and circumstance, whose abilities to describe the natural world are unmatched by any of his peers. In later life, he had achieved so much in the world of letters that even royalty visited him at his home. In his early sixties, he retired from novel-writing and decided to have a go at publishing poetry, unaware that he would go on to have an equally long career as a poet and would become one of the preeminent writers of verse in the twentieth century.

In this module, you will discover why Hardy persists in being one of Britain's most important, modern and relevant writers. It will explore the range of Hardy's work including his novels, some short fiction poetry, prose, and autobiography, in the light of specifically nineteenth-century concerns such as the emergence of modernity, the impact of science, the beginnings of modernism, and the shift from the rural to the urban. Themes to be explored will include Hardy’s changing position as an author throughout his career; his development of forms of narrative; his views on history and philosophy; the representation of class; anxieties about social, cultural and economic change; the status of the human and the animal; his interest in evolutionary theory and its widespread effect; and finally, his career and position as a twentieth-century poet.

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Why is the memoir such a popular genre in contemporary literature? Are memoirs individualistic, sentimental and voyeuristic (what is often dismissed as “misery literature”) or can they have strong ethical impulses and powerful real-world effects? This course critically examines the significance of the memoir – a first-person account of a part of one’s life, often written by someone not previously known as a writer– in late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century literature. Through reading a range of recent memoirs we will examine the themes, techniques and debates that have come to characterise this genre. Drawing on a range of aesthetic, theoretical and cultural perspectives, we will approach these memoirs both as literature – as rich sources for critical analysis and capable of transforming academic criticism – and in terms of their appeal, and sometimes controversial reception, within present-day mass audiences. We will also expand our discussion of memoirs to consider graphic narrative and film.

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The Love Poem will tell a history of English poetry through the lens of its most important and singular genre. Students will interrogate the characteristics of modern poetry itself through an investigation of love, desire, gender and intimacy as they have been articulated through the changing lyrical tradition of the language. The module will examine key canonical writers from the beginnings of the English lyric, including Thomas Wyatt and William Shakespeare, through complications in metaphysical poetry, the ballad and Romanticism, up to present day representations of homosexual love, popular song and avant-garde expression. Poets will be studied alongside theorists such as Alain Badiou, Roland Barthes and Judith Butler, exploring the possible ways in which poetry can be said to challenge dominant modes of love, interact with their social environment through love poetry, and investigate, express and explain the experiences of attraction, attachment and loss.

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This module examines the development of Virginia Woolf's writing across the span of her life. It explores Woolf’s most important modernist texts alongside some of her lesser-known writings, and considers a range of literary genres she wrote in (novels, essays, short stories, auto/biography). As well as paying close attention to the distinct style of modernist literature, there will be consideration of various historical, cultural, philosophical, political and artistic contexts that influenced, and were influenced by, Woolf’s writing. Students will be introduced to the key critical debates on Woolf, featuring discussion of topics as diverse as feminism, visual art, the everyday, war, sexuality, gender, class, empire, science, nature and animality. With Woolf as its central focus, this module therefore seeks to understand the lasting significance of modernist literature.

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What is the relationship between 'animal' and 'human', and how is this explored through writing? This module seeks to examine creaturely relations by focusing on literature from the eighteenth century up to the present, alongside key theoretical and contextual material that engages with questions concerning animality and humanity. We will focus on how writers imagine distinct animal worlds as well as how they understand the role of animals in human cultures. A range of novels, short stories and poems will raise questions about how we look at, think with, and try to give voice to animals, and topics covered will include 'Becoming Animal', 'Animal Autobiography', 'Observing Animals', 'Colonial Creatures', 'Animal Experiments', 'Taming and Training', and 'Questions for Animals'. Students taking this module will gain a firm grounding in the diverse critical field known as 'animal studies', whilst also considering the broader cultural, philosophical and ethical implications of how we think about the relationship between humans and animals.

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This module is an intensive study of aesthetic and decadent literature in late Victorian Britain. We will explore some of the key literary and critical works that popularised the concept of the 'aesthetic' and the ideal of the aesthetic life, and examine how and why 'art for art's sake' and 'decadence' came to be understood as the watchwords of a countercultural movement. The module also takes in along its way some of the manifestos, scandals, satires, and controversies that made aestheticism and decadence vivid in the public imagination, such as the 'Fleshly School of Poetry' controversy, the notorious periodical The Yellow Book, and the three trials of Oscar Wilde. This module pays particular attention to the relationship between the literary and visual arts, and aims to help students gain a sophisticated understanding of the intellectual and imaginative stakes of Victorian aestheticism and decadence, as well as of the social and material contexts from which a 'cult of beauty' arose in late Victorian Britain. We will consider the ways in which Aestheticism and Decadence look backward to Romanticism and forward to Modernism; how they became a means of imagining alternative sexualities, identities, and lifestyles; and how they clarify (or falsify) the relations between art, ethics, and politics.

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The New Woman, a controversial figure who became prominent in British literature in the late nineteenth century, challenged traditional views of femininity and represented a more radical understanding of women's nature and role in society. She was associated with a range of unconventional behaviour – from smoking and bicycle-riding to sexuality outside marriage and political activism. This module will examine some of the key literary texts identified with the New Woman phenomenon including women's journalism in the period. The module's reading will be organised around central thematic concerns such as: sexuality and motherhood; suffrage and politics; career and creativity. We will consider to what extent the New Woman was a media construction or whether the term reflected the lives of progressive women in the period. This module will also examine how the New Woman became a global phenomenon, beginning with the plays of Henrik Ibsen, before spreading to literature produced around the world by writers from Britain (eg Amy Levy, Evelyn Sharp) America (Charlotte Perkins Gilman), Australia (George Egerton), and New Zealand (Katherine Mansfield). The module will also consider the legacy of the New Woman into the early modernist period, through studying Virginia Woolf’s novel that depicts the suffrage movement, Night and Day.

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The module examines some key texts in the theory and literary presentation of utopia. In the first part of the module we will examine classic early utopian texts (Plato, More) and will set these in the context of the modern theory of historical progress (Hegel) the failure of that progress to materialise (Agamben) and the nature of hope for the future (Bloch). In the second part of the module, we will examine modern classics which look at the failure of the communist utopia (Zamyatin, Huxley, Orwell) and at later texts which revived the genre of utopia (LeGuin, Atwood).

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This module offers students a synoptic perspective on Marxist cultural criticism from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day in Europe, Russia and North America. It begins with an analysis of a selection from Marx’s own writings, with the aim of introducing key terms, such as “alienation,” “ideology,” and “dialectic.” Students’ understanding of these terms and their critical uses for literary and cultural studies will develop during the course of the module, as they encounter a range of important Marxist thinkers and their writings.

Throughout the module students will be invited to interrogate and transgress the boundaries separating literary from critical texts, and theory from practice. They will be invited to consider creative practice and Marxist criticism in dialogue with one another at particular historical moments. Although anchored in the literary and the textual, the module will also offer opportunities to think critically about the term “culture” itself in its broadest senses, encompassing a range of aesthetic and social practices, such as sport and music. Progressing through the great class conflicts of the early twentieth century, the Frankfurt School, New Left and anti-racist decolonization movements of the postwar period, up to the contemporary neoliberal moment, the module aims finally to offer students a set of tools with which to understand their own cultural encounters in the present as well as to reconfigure and re-evaluate the cultural knowledge they have accumulated in stages one and two of their degree programmes.

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This module focuses on the exploration of the graphic novel as a visual and literary medium. The module will interpret the term ‘graphic novel’ broadly, and incorporate discussions of comic books, political cartoons, as well as film and television adaptations as a part of its curriculum. The module will begin with an examination of the more mature aesthetic that became increasingly popular for graphic novels during the late 1980s, and examine how these developments have continued to evolve to the present day. Strong emphasis will be placed on readings informed by sociological and political discourses. Students will be encouraged to relate their close analysis of texts to topics such as the distinctions between art and popular culture, and the connections between literary and social history, as well as contemporary concerns such as identity politics, neo-liberal capitalism, protest, and anarchy. As such, the module will demonstrate how the study of graphic novels directly relates to several key concerns in the study of undergraduate English.

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Teaching and assessment

Teaching and assessment can vary between modules. All modules are taught by weekly seminars. In addition to seminars, the majority of literature modules also include a weekly lecture.

Assessment at Stage 1 and 2 is by a mixture of coursework and examination. Some modules may include an optional practical element.

Assessment at Stage 3 is by coursework only and may include an optional Dissertation.

Attendance at seminars is required, and for the majority of modules, you are assessed on your seminar contribution/performance.

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • introduce you to a wide range of literatures, particularly British and American, from Chaucer to the present day, and encourage you to identify and develop your own interests and expertise in fields of literary study
  • enable you to develop an historical and cross-cultural awareness of literary traditions and the ways in which they interact
  • develop your understanding and critical appreciation of the expressive resources of language
  • offer opportunities for you to develop your potential for creative writing
  • offer generous scope for the study of literature within an interdisciplinary context
  • enable you to follow a particular pathway within the context of English and American literary study
  • develop your ability to argue a point of view with clarity and cogency, both orally and in written form
  • develop your ability to assimilate and organise a mass of diverse information
  • offer you the experience of a variety of teaching styles and approaches to the study of literature
  • develop your capacity for independent critical thinking and judgement
  • provide a basis for the study of English or related disciplines at a higher level
  • provide a basis in knowledge and skills for those intending to teach English literature, including a broad frame of cultural reference
  • provide you with the opportunity to develop more general skills and competences so that you can respond positively to the challenges of the workplace or of postgraduate education.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • a wide range of authors, texts and cultures from 1350 to the present day in both British and American Literature
  • the principal literary genres, fiction, poetry, drama and of other kinds of writing and communication
  • the cultural, national and historical contexts in which literature is written, transmitted and read, particularly inflected by traditions of study in English, American and Postcolonial Literature
  • awareness of the range and variety of approaches to literary study, include creative practice
  • traditions in literary criticism
  • the mechanisms of circulation and reception of literary texts
  • critical theory and its applications, understood within its historical contexts
  • the ways the study of literature relates to other disciplines
  • the ways literary work relates to other aesthetic forms
  • the history and conventions of the principal literary genres.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • listening to and absorbing the oral transmission of complicated data
  • careful reading of literary works and theoretical material
  • reflecting clearly and critically on oral and written sources, using power of analysis and imagination
  • marshalling a complex body of information
  • remembering relevant material and bringing it to mind when needed
  • constructing cogent arguments
  • formulating independent ideas and defending them in a plausible manner
  • presenting arguments in written form in a time-limited context (examinations).

Subject-specific skills

You gain the following subject-specific skills:

  • enhanced skills in the close critical analysis of literary texts
  • informed critical understanding of the variety of critical and theoretical approaches to the study of literature
  • ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of texts, concepts and theories relating to English studies
  • sensitivity to generic conventions in the study of literature
  • sensitivity to the problems of translation and cultural difference 
  • ability to articulate the relation between literary work and other aesthetic forms 
  • well-developed language use and awareness, including a grasp of standard critical terminology
  • articulate responsiveness to literary language
  • appropriate scholarly practice in the presentation of formal written work, in particular in bibliographic and annotational practices
  • understanding of how cultural norms, assumptions and practices influence questions of judgement
  • appreciation of the value of collaborative intellectual work in developing critical judgement.

Transferable skills

You develop the following transferable skills:

  • developed powers of communication and the capacity to argue a point of view, orally and in written form, with clarity, organisation and cogency
  • enhanced confidence in the efficient presentation of ideas designed to stimulate critical debate
  • developed critical acumen
  • the ability to assimilate and organise substantial quantities of complex information of diverse kinds
  • competence in the planning and execution of essays and project-work
  • enhanced skills in critical analysis
  • enhanced capacity for independent thought, intellectual focus, reasoned judgement, and self-criticism
  • enhanced skills in collaborative intellectual work, including more finely tuned listening skills
  • the ability to understand, interrogate and apply a variety of theoretical positions and weigh the importance of alternative perspectives
  • research skills, including scholarly information retrieval skills
  • IT skills: word-processing, email communication, the ability to access electronic data.

Careers

Graduate destinations

Our graduates have gone on to work in areas including:

  • journalism
  • broadcasting
  • publishing and writing
  • teaching
  • banking
  • marketing
  • project management.

Our graduates include:

  • Kazuo Ishiguro
  • David Mitchell
  • Sarah Waters.

Help finding a job

The University has a friendly Careers and Employability Service, which offers advice on how to:

  • apply for jobs
  • write a good CV
  • perform well in interviews.

Career-enhancing skills

Alongside specialist skills, you also develop the transferable skills graduate employers look for, including the ability to:

  • think critically 
  • communicate your ideas and opinions 
  • work independently and as part of a team.

You can also gain extra skills by signing up for one of our Kent Extra activities, such as learning a language or volunteering.

My job is as much about people as it is about numbers... my course taught me how to engage with other people and communicate well.

Mark McBride English and American Literature BA

Entry requirements

Home/EU students

The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice. 

It is not possible to offer places to all students who meet this typical offer/minimum requirement.

New GCSE grades

If you’ve taken exams under the new GCSE grading system, please see our conversion table to convert your GCSE grades.

Qualification Typical offer/minimum requirement
A level

ABB including English Literature or English Language and Literature grade B

Access to HE Diploma

The University will not necessarily make conditional offers to all Access candidates but will continue to assess them on an individual basis. 

If we make you an offer, you will need to obtain/pass the overall Access to Higher Education Diploma and may also be required to obtain a proportion of the total level 3 credits and/or credits in particular subjects at merit grade or above.

BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (formerly BTEC National Diploma)

The University will consider applicants holding BTEC National Diploma and Extended National Diploma Qualifications (QCF; NQF; OCR) on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us for further advice on your individual circumstances.

International Baccalaureate

34 points overall or 17 points at HL, including HL English A1/A2/B at 5/6/6 OR English Literature A/English Language and Literature A (or Literature A/Language and Literature A of another country) at HL 5 or SL 6

International students

The University welcomes applications from international students. Our international recruitment team can guide you on entry requirements. See our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country.

If you need to increase your level of qualification ready for undergraduate study, we offer a number of International Foundation Programmes.

Meet our staff in your country

For more advice about applying to Kent, you can meet our staff at a range of international events.

English Language Requirements

Please see our English language entry requirements web page.

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of 'pre-sessional' courses in English for Academic Purposes. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme. 

General entry requirements

Please also see our general entry requirements.

Fees

The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £9250 £15700
Part-time £4625 £7850

For students continuing on this programme, fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* 

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Fees for Year in Industry

For 2019/20 entrants, the standard year in industry fee for home, EU and international students is £1,385

Fees for Year Abroad

UK, EU and international students on an approved year abroad for the full 2019/20 academic year pay £1,385 for that year. 

Students studying abroad for less than one academic year will pay full fees according to their fee status. 

General additional costs

Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.

Funding

University funding

Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details. 

Government funding

You may be eligible for government finance to help pay for the costs of studying. See the Government's student finance website.

Scholarships

General scholarships

Scholarships are available for excellence in academic performance, sport and music and are awarded on merit. For further information on the range of awards available and to make an application see our scholarships website.

The Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence

At Kent we recognise, encourage and reward excellence. We have created the Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence. 

The scholarship will be awarded to any applicant who achieves a minimum of AAA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages

The scholarship is also extended to those who achieve AAB at A level (or specified equivalents) where one of the subjects is either mathematics or a modern foreign language. Please review the eligibility criteria.

Full-time

Part-time

The Key Information Set (KIS) data is compiled by UNISTATS and draws from a variety of sources which includes the National Student Survey and the Higher Education Statistical Agency. The data for assessment and contact hours is compiled from the most populous modules (to the total of 120 credits for an academic session) for this particular degree programme. 

Depending on module selection, there may be some variation between the KIS data and an individual's experience. For further information on how the KIS data is compiled please see the UNISTATS website.

If you have any queries about a particular programme, please contact information@kent.ac.uk.